Public and private sector officials across the United States are taking extraordinary—and some would say draconian—measures to protect Americans from the coronavirus, ordering closures, cancellations, restrictions, curfews, and in one city, even a “shelter in place” order.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States surged to over 4,000 cases Monday, with New York surpassing Washington as the most affected state.
Public schools, colleges and universities from California to New York have closed campus classrooms to combat the spread of the deadly virus. And schools are urging families to stay put during Spring Break rather than risk being exposed and contributing to the spread of the disease.
On Friday, federal authorities announced new restrictions on nursing home visitors aimed at protecting seniors from the virus.
In a press release and memo issued late Friday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services provided details about the new policy. Among the new measures, it states that “facilities should restrict visitation of all visitors and non-essential health care personnel, except for certain compassionate care situations, such as an end-of-life situation.”
Additionally, the Trump administration is reportedly considering a ban on all commercial domestic air travel, the first ban on air travel since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
On Sunday, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said “all options remain on the table” when asked at a White House press conference whether the administration is considering a halt of domestic air travel. A day earlier, President Donald Trump said the American public should avoid unnecessary travel.
Meanwhile, Governors in a growing number of states — including California, Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington — have closed bars, restaurants and wineries in an effort to slow the spread and mayors of major cities have ordered similar restrictions.
In Ohio, where there are currently 37 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Gov. Mike DeWine said bars and restaurants can stay only open for carry-out and delivery but “what we can’t have is people congregating and seated.”
“I’m aware that this will impact many, many good workers,” DeWine wrote on Twitter. “I can’t tell you how sorry I am, but we will work to mitigate the suffering. It is our goal for everyone to get through this. Every day we delay, more people will die.”
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley announced an order Monday that takes the concept of “social distancing” to a new level.
Cranley mandated that people must keep a distance of six feet between them while they’re out in public, and said the order will be enforced by police “through suggestion.”
Couples, families, and people in transit are exempt from this order, but sidewalks are not Mayor Cranley said.
Six San Francisco Bay Area counties on Monday announced a “shelter in place” order for all residents, “directing everyone to stay inside their homes and away from others as much as possible for the next three weeks as public health officials desperately try to curb the rapid spread of coronavirus across the region.”
The order falls just short of a full lockdown, which would forbid people from leaving their homes without explicit permission, and it wasn’t immediately clear how, or to what degree, it would be enforced. The order calls for the sheriff or chief of police to “ensure compliance.”
In New Orleans, the mayor ordered restaurants to close by 9 p.m. daily, and during opening hours, to either remove chairs and tables or space them out further. Mayor LaToya Cantrell said bars and nightclubs will have to close at midnight.
Cantrell urged residents to call 3-1-1 to report illegal large gatherings.
Over the weekend, New Orleans police cleared out a large crowd on Bourbon Street.
— Brantly Keiek (@BrantlyWx) March 16, 2020
Bars and restaurants in Michigan were also closed to the public starting at 3 pm Monday, March 16. The establishments are allowed to stay open for takeout and delivery.
In Las Vegas, Nevada, MGM Resorts, which owns many major Las Vegas hotels, temporarily suspended operations on Monday.
In South Florida, officials have ordered curfews and beach closures to curb Spring Break crowds. Florida has seen confirmed cases of coronavirus jump to 155 in recent days, with four deaths.
— #MaskUpMiamiBeach 😷 (@MiamiBeachNews) March 15, 2020
The following add'l proactive measures in response to COVID-19 are effective today thru 4/12:
– gatherings of 250+ prohibited
– bar/nightclubs/restaurants to reduce/limit occupancy to 50% & close 10pm-6am
– public beaches & City rec. facilities closed
— City of Fort Lauderdale (@FTLCityNews) March 15, 2020
Officers were clearing out parts of South Beach in Miami Saturday night when they had to respond to a man brandishing a gun. Shots were fired, causing hundreds of partiers to stampede down the street, Fox-7 reported.
In a tweet, police said they were “responding to a call about a man with a gun inside the building. They made contact with that man, and that’s when the officer’s gun discharged.”
Cellphone video captured crews carrying the man to an ambulance. The patient was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital in unknown condition.
— Sheldon Fox-7 News (@fox_sheldon) March 15, 2020
— Sheldon Fox-7 News (@fox_sheldon) March 15, 2020
South Padre Island (SPI), on the other hand, has not yet enacted any closures or restrictions. As of Sunday, in fact, all of the live music events on the island were still scheduled as planned, according to the PadreU Spring Break Vacations website.
SPI is popular destination for students on Spring Break and is typically swamped with college kids throughout the month of March.
In a statement last week, SPI claimed that city officials had diligently reviewed and evaluated all information and risks associated with coronavirus, and concluded that Spring Break festivities could proceed with minimal risk.
“Information available indicates that the majority of the coronavirus cases are from people that entered in the U.S. internationally … and have been appropriately quarantined,” read the statement.